Cabinet yesterday approved a $10 million health project to benefit more than 6,000 citizens initially.Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan told the weekly post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, about the initiative, the External Patients Programme (EPP), which is intended to ensure that people who have to wait prolonged periods for appointments will be allowed to have the surgery or other procedures at private medical institutions across the country.Among those to benefit initially are patients awaiting cataract surgery, CT and MRI scans and reports, pathology specimen reports, hip and knee surgery. The list will be increased to include prostate surgery and other operations.
He said people who wanted those operations done in the public health system have an extremely long waiting time.A condition for accessing the programme, Khan said was that the patient must have been waiting in the public health system for more than three months.The patient will have to fill out a form to the programme administrator at the Ministry of Health and will be given a voucher to go to an institution for the required service.The chosen supplier will redeem the voucher. Khan said negotiations were still taking place with those suppliers.Moves to have unused capacity at public hospitals were frustrated, he complained, because "those who were supposed to do the normal work were not doing it and making sure that there was a backlog. So we are partnering with the private sector."
Khan said dental services were also expected to be added to the EPP shortly.He said the system would reduce the possibility of fraud and audit programmes would be in place at the regional health authorities.Khan said the number of citizens visiting public hospitals had been increasing over the past years, owing to the increasing intake of salty, fatty, sugary and processed foods by citizens, resulting in an increase in cardiac, kidney and retinal patients and a high level of obesity.T&T was the fifth most obese country in the world, he said, making the disease an epidemic.He said private health institutions have been asked to submit proposals to the Government to make this initiative successful and it will be an ongoing exercise and not just for the short-term.